Olympic hopeful Phil Burgess admits that given the fierce competition within the squad, this weekend’s Exeter 7s competition is the last chance for Great Britain’s players to stamp their authority on the jersey ahead of Rio.
Rugby 7s returns to the home of Exeter Chiefs, Sandy Park, on Saturday – with the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series event also just around the corner on July 23.
This weekend’s tournament is the second leg of the Rugby Europe Sevens Series, which also stops in Moscow and Gdansk, and is a great chance for rugby fans to see the likes of Aviva Premiership Rugby stars Marcus Watson and Ollie Lindsay-Hague representing Great Britain ahead of the Olympic Games.
Simon Amor’s 24-man squad has been pushed to the limit in pre-Rio training for more than six weeks, and split into two teams to enter last weekend's ‘7s in the City’ competition in London.
Both reached the final at Saracens’ Allianz Park stadium, where the GB Lions saw off the GB Royals 27-14 in an exciting match that showcased the vast array of talent at Amor’s disposal.
And if the mouth-watering prospect of another British showdown becomes a reality on Sunday, Burgess knows everyone in the squad will be desperate to impress against their direct competitors for a spot on the flight to Brazil.
“Looking ahead for the future, I think everyone would love to see another GB vs GB game, as it means there is another opportunity for us in front of the coaches,” he said.
“Everyone wants to put a marker down in front of their opposite number and say, ‘this is what I can do, and this is what he can do.’
“Whoever comes out of this tournament at the weekend with their head held high will definitely be putting themselves in a good position going forward.
“[The Olympics] is a huge carrot for all of us. Right now there are 24 of us all fighting like hell to get into that squad. It’s a huge opportunity for all the guys and one that we all want to be part of.
“That said, we’re all aware that half of the current squad are going to be cut at some stage, so it’s important you do what you can to not only put yourself in the best light, but at the same time ensure the squad overall is in the best place it can possibly be.”
It is a hugely exciting time for rugby 7s with the sport about to leap into the limelight in its first appearance at the Olympic Games since 1924.
Aviva Premiership Rugby leads the way when it comes to club 7s, and after this year's Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series kicks off in Cardiff, it will visit Exeter on July 23, Northampton on July 29 and then Newcastle on July 30.
The final showcase at Wasps’ Ricoh Arena is set for August 7, the day after Amor and the Olympic 7s squad begin their campaign in Rio, and with the final GB7s 12 set to be selected next week the head coach is relishing the level of competition within his squad.
He said: “The processes around selection mean that this Exeter tournament becomes even more important for everyone involved.
“There is a lot of pressure on the guys heading into this weekend and it will be interesting to see how they all handle it but this pressure is great preparation for Rio.
“Over the last six weeks they have gelled incredibly well as a group and created a very special and unique GB spirit.
“They have all bought into the fact that every step made during this journey has been about ensuring that GB 7s is in the best possible place come Rio and this weekend is another chance to show what they can do as players and as a squad.”
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s kicks off on 22 July at Cardiff Arms Park with the Finals at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 7 August. For tickets and details visit premiershiprugby.com/singha7stickets
GB Royals squad for Exeter 7s
Luke Treharne (c)
Fixtures (live on Sky Sports 3)
v Portugal (12.36pm)
v Poland (3.21pm)
v France (5.44pm)
GB Lions squad for Exeter 7s
Richard de Carpentier
Tom Mitchell (c)
Fixtures: (live on Sky Sports 3)
v Belgium (1.20pm)
v Italy (4.05pm)
v Germany (6.50pm)